Sarath Jakka completed his joint doctorate in early modern studies from the University of Kent, Canterbury and the University of Porto as an Erasmus Mundus fellow at the TEEME (Text & Event in Early Modern Europe) programme. His PhD thesis explores the relations between utopian writing and seventeenth-century colonial efforts, focusing on the colonial promotional literature produced for a failed English colony in Madagascar. His thesis proposes that the contradictions encountered in colonial promotional literature can throw light on the historical contingencies, ideological concerns, and the rhetorical forms that shaped the ‘ideal politics’ of seventeenth-century English colonial ventures.

Jakka’s interest in the paradoxes that animate early modern utopian and colonial discourse has now expanded to include interests in the recursive and paradoxical aspects of consciousness and feeling that figure in various guises across the eastern contemplative traditions, psychoanalysis, philosophy of science, and literary theory. He is currently training as a psychotherapist.

From October 2022, Sarath Jakka will remain at ICI Berlin for a further 12 months with funding from the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF). His ISRF Independent Scholar Fellowship award – for the project ‘Negative Capabilities: Rethinking the Phenomenal and Relational Aspects of the Therapeutic Encounter – will see Jakka developing further the work of his ICI Fellowship.

Inheriting Utopia’s Ruins: Tracing the Colonial and Speculative Dimensions of Contemporary Ecological Crises
Affiliated Project 2023-25

This project will culminate in a monograph that charts a genealogy of the colonial and speculative dimensions of the ongoing climate disaster through the archives of a specific case: the promotional literature of a seventeenth-century English attempt to establish a colony in Madagascar. This study locates the historical processes that constitute the current ecological catastrophe around questions of utopian heritage, such as:

What are the colonial roots of the ideal futures promised by the political, economic and epistemological imaginaries that have precipitated the current states of local and global ecological emergency? How do these utopian horizons persist in the resource-intensive scientific and technocratic models that dominate the contemporary discourse on climate solutions? How do these dominant utopian visions colonise or exterminate alternative paradigms of value, futurity and desire?

Negative Capability: Reduction and the Politics of Attention in Mental Health Discourse
ICI Project 2020-22

In the encounter between the psychotherapist and the client, two strangers exchange lives and stories, simultaneously reducing and expanding each other. My research critically examines the dominant forms of reduction at the heart of this encounter while putting forth an alternative vocabulary of reduction better suited to address the varieties of attention that constitute the core aspects of care and vulnerability involved in the psychotherapeutic dialogue. Due to the empirical emphasis in psychological research, positivist accounts — restricting themselves to what can be controlled, tested, and measured — have become the dominant form of reduction that characterizes psychotherapeutic norms.

The project instead proposes to look at the phenomena of reduction involved in the therapeutic encounter through a negative lens, that is, it considers reduction as renunciation, erasure, removal, and disappearance. Reduction as a ‘negative capability’ in the therapeutic context — the capacity to cope with, exist in, and actively embrace uncertainty, ambivalence, and indeterminacy — is brought into relief through a cross reading of various discursive practices attuned to the subtractive aspects of reduction, of reduction as negation.